Previously known as Watermelon Express, the test prep and educational app developer has a new name, BenchPrep, and has rebranded itself as a firm offering interactive learning programs that can be used on any device.
Launched in 2009 by Ashish Rangneka and Ujjwal Gupta, BenchPrep has received funding from Lightbank, the investment fund behind the daily discount venture Groupon. In a phone interview, Rangneka told PW that there's been "a big shift in our business model." Previously BenchPrep created apps based on textbook content and produced single-title apps selling for between $9.99 and $14 (for mobile devices) and up to $50 for desktop applications. The company added a variety of functionality to the content, and the apps could be bought individually, like, well, a book.
Rangneka told PW, "We want to stay away from the concept of titles. Now we create interactive social learning courses out of books" for use online, on the iPhone, iPad, and Android operating systems. Now, according to Rangneka, BenchPrep content is organized into "social learning courses," and the company offers about 20 courses with about 100 more "in the pipeline and ready by the end of the year." BenchPrep content partners include McGraw-Hill and Cengage.
Courses are available for high school, undergrad, graduate, and professional certification, vocational and language learning. The average price of a course is now $100 (high school level is less; professional level can be more). Apps are a lifetime one-time buy and are stored in the cloud, accessible on every kind of device and available at any time.
BenchPrep builds access to an online community around each app and its book content. Rangneka believes that students want interaction and connection, and the app lets them see who is making bookmarks, who is taking a quiz, and how other students have done on the quizzes. Although BenchPrep prices are rising at a time when the trend in digital educational content is to bring prices down, Rangneka said he wasn't concerned. "In fact, our higher priced titles sell more," he said. "We are adding a ton of value on top of the content. And students are willing to pay for value-added services like access on all devices, interactive quizzes, performance reporting, and social features."